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Jiffy Rental Center
Jiffy Rental Center
Jiffy Rental Center in Riverton, Wyoming
 When I was a young boy, my mom told me the story of a church with magical bells that rang only at Christmas.  Legend held that angels rang the bells whenever someone gave a great gift at Christmas.  Each year, people flocked to the little church for Christmas services, hoping to hear the bells ring once again.  In spite of their efforts, the bells had remained silent for many years. Then one year, when the collection basket was passed to the back of the church, a woman who was poor and with a young child, dropped a small coin in the basket.  In that instant, the church bells began ringing gloriously!  How could such a small gift have been so great to ring the bells?  “Her gift rang the bells because she gave all that she had to God,” my mom told me.  

 I still remember this story every Christmas. You may have heard a different version. In 1996, I wrote about another Christmas story, one that happened in our small town and in our small church. The story is about a man called Jo-Jo. Today, it is reprinted  because a friend reminded me of it and because today is another special occasion…. my son Toby’s birthday.  




As we filed out of church after the Christmas Vigil Mass, he stood there at the back of the church. Jo-Jo was one of the homeless people who sometimes sleep in our church during cold winter nights.

 Surprisingly, he stood near the crowd passing slowly down the center aisle of the church to exit. Moving closer, I noticed how he looked at each person passing by, waiting to see if they might acknowledge him. How many people spoke to him, I don't know. But I will never forget the way his face lit up when my wife greeted him. As she shook his hand and wished him a "Merry Christmas", his rugged face that bore the scars of a difficult life almost seemed transformed. He smiled broadly at her greeting.

 When I approached him I thought for an instant of looking away. Thankfully, I did not. Instead, I said “Merry Christmas" and reached to shake his hand. I could tell he was pleased and he greeted me warmly. As I passed by, I heard my daughter behind me greet him as well.

 Christmas came at our house with all the joy of presents and activity that accompany a house filled with children. The next morning my wife went to early Mass. It was then that she and others found him. Jo-Jo had died quietly in his sleep in the church. This familiar face among the homeless was gone. 

 Since then, I have thought a lot about this man called Jo-Jo.  I still think about the way he stationed himself so close to the departing crowd on Christmas Eve. It was unusual, I thought, but maybe it was just his nature. Or, it could have been the spirit of Christmas. But if Jesus ever visited our church, would He choose to be seen as one of the homeless, waiting to see who greets Him?   Never again will I be tempted to look away from the homeless.

 Few of us are so blessed as to leave this life in the very presence of Christ, in His House, and in His care for our shelter and warmth. Jo-Jo received this blessing on Christmas, a Holy night when Heaven joyously welcomed him home.








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